In Dallas, Texas, the family man Ben Garvey (Paul Walker) is on probation but he is a hard worker of the Fort Garry Brewery Company and lives a simple life with his beloved wife Lisa (Piper Perabo) and their daughter Katie. When his probation period finishes, Ben's brother Rick visits him after being released from prison and invites Ben to heist 12 kg of gold in dust from a laboratory. Ben refuses the invitation but he is fired from his job because of his record; he decides to join Ricky and his partner Phelps in the robbery. However things go wrong and Ricky, Phelps and a security guard die in the heist and Ben is sentenced to death for the murders. After his execution through lethal injection, Ben awakes working as housekeeper of the Monte Angel community in Dundee, Oregon, for Father Ezra, who explains to him that his past life is gone and now he is having a second chance to live again. As time goes on, and with a wife and daughter left behind, he wonders whether he has truly cheated death or if he has become part of a far more sinister plan.
If by the last 20 minutes of a movie you still don’t know where it’s going, you’d probably be hoping that the final revelation had better be worth your time. The Lazarus Project is one such movie- its title an obvious Biblical reference to Lazarus, the man resurrected by Jesus accounted in the Gospel of John.
The person here restored to life is Ben Garvey, sentenced to death for a robbery attempt gone awry in which three people were killed. After his execution by lethal injection, Ben miraculously finds himself alive in the Monte Angel community in a small town as the groundskeeper. Why is he alive? What are those mysterious people he sees around town? What about the other supposed insane inmates locked up in one of the buildings?
By the 70-minute mark you still won’t have much of an answer to any of those questions; or much of a clue how the movie is going to end. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. Based on a story by Evan Astrowsky, first-time director John Glenn (better known as the screenwriter of last year’s Eagle Eye) does a competent job building up the suspense up to this point, keeping you intrigued with the possibility of a more sinister conspiracy behind the seemingly placid community.
What’s admirable is how John Glenn, who also wrote the screenplay for this movie, nicely develops the character of Ben Garvey so you care for his predicament. Here is a man who only wants to have a happy fulfilling life with his family but is forced to turn once again to a life of crime after he is sacked from his job because of his criminal record. And in what is easily one of his best performances, Paul Walker makes you genuinely care for what his character is going through.
Unfortunately when the big reveal comes along, it ends up being less than satisfying. The twist lacks the impact that you hope for, and though it still is affecting, it is less so than what you would expect. Yes, for all the anticipation the movie kept you under for much of its runtime, you’re likely to be wishing for something more rewarding at the end, something I doubt you’ll find at the end of The Lazarus Project.
It’s little wonder then why this Paul Walker movie skipped a theatrical release- despite boasting a fine performance by the good-looking blond-haired, blue-eyed actor. This is a psychological thriller that keeps you wanting more throughout its duration, and leaves you the same way when it ends.
There are no special features on this DVD.
The disc’s visual transfer looks good. Surprisingly, the Dolby 2.0 audio track holds up quite nicely during Brian Tyler’s atmospheric score especially if you can put your system on surround.
Review by Gabriel Chong